This is a phrase similar to the one in Asia of "Same But Different" or in India "Yes Yes" with shakes of the head that usually mean "no". You start with one idea and leave with something else, not totally convinced either the trip or the directions will work.
A classic example experienced shortly after my Kilimanjaro trip ... I needed a bus to Dar Es Salaam (travel tip no1: Don't stay there just head through to Zanzibar). The bus was leaving at 8.30 so I was told to arrive at 8.00. The bus left at 8.45 and was meant to be 6hrs and I eventually arrived in Dar at a dodgy bus station (and I mean proper Croydon dodgy and nowhere near civilisation) in total darkness at 7pm. This bus journey cost me $30 ... bargain! The taxi from the bus rank which I took in earnest with the usual foreigner hassles was $25 ... not a bargain! So after 11 hours on the road I eventually arrived at my hotel - Ironically the bus company was called Dar Express. At least the bus (which stopped only once for 15min lunch) came with a free drink and biscuit ... the best part of the journey was the old TV showing Tanzanian movies about drunken husbands (played by The Bunk) who domestically abuse their wives ... thank goodness the acting made it not very convincing plus the special effects looked more like he had dropped his Strawberry Mivvi rather than been shot.
Firstly big thanks to the team at Ashante Tours (means thank you in Swahili) a locally owned travel company. Turns out I had my own guide Aristde for the trip although I met a great couple from Oz (Dunc and Row - what is it with Aussies and abbreviations!?!) who I shared many a meal and bit of banter above the cloud line. The tour operation is slick ... I had a porter for my bag (that's 20kg on his neck), one for tent etc and one for food. They were last to leave in the morning after packing up and first to arrive at camp to set everything up. Well worth the $40 cost each for the week.
For those not in the know, you either do 4 or 5 days of climbing and acclimatisation and then 2 days down (always go for the total 7 day trip - higher success rate). Days are relatively tough and a good friend said when she climbed her motivating phrase was "pain is weakness leaving the body"... although mine was "if Cheryl Cole can do this then so can I" hence I never backed down - a bit like Cashley and his contract negotiations when moving to Chelsea. The hardest part I felt was the shortness of breath, running for the loo in the middle of the night knackers you; turning over in bed makes you breathe faster; even talking and eating at the same time takes more energy. For the geeks out there apparently oxygen levels are 9% at the summit compared to 21% at sea level. Aside from the oxygen deprivation, the views are unbelievable - sitting having lunch in glorious sunshine above the clouds with the Uhuru summit behind you was totally inspiring. I kept reminding Aristde that this is his daily office - last month mine was looking across the A4 and the Novotel. We had a little bit of rain but our spirits weren't dampened which meant that any alfresco toilet stops both day and night were a pleasure - particularly the starry night sky, providing you avoided the long drops! It made the Glastonbury loos on day 4 look inviting.
To paraphrase Redgrave 'if you see me in a tent again you can shoot me!' I was lucky to have a 2 man tent to myself which meant I could spread out a bit. It did still mean that my 6ft frame touched both ends which meant damp head and feet in the morning with the frost. Also since when does a thin piece of foam constitute a mattress? I rolled it in half and used my stolen/borrowed BA blanket as additional cushioning on my pelvis so I could get some sleep. So once I was comfortable I still had to battle with the temperature control and any midnight pit stops required multiple layers to prevent frost bite settling in (mild over exaggeration). I guess I'm trying to sum up that I don't need much pampering but a half decent bed, blow up mattress or doll would have made the experience much nicer - although I guess that's the point. You're in Africa half way up a mountain, if there was a Coke shop and some niceties then it wouldn't be the same, that would probably mean that you are in USA! Although it's worth pointing out that the more you pay on these trips, the more you get ... these Yanks got a burger and chips at the finishing gate. I got a hand shake.
YES I MADE IT!
Thanks to all the acclimatisation we then went beyond the summit to the western edge of the mountain for more scenic views. After 9 photos by the summit and cold winds building we dashed down the mountain to camp. By saying dashed it meant my boots were like skis and I parallel turned down the mountain past rocks ... They didn't tell me this before the summit day. It was fun at first but after pushing for nearly 7 hours, near the bottom I hit the wall but was very glad to see my camp around the corner.
- Why do people on holiday think it is a good look to have braids or corn rolls? Have you never seen Monica from Friends?!?
- Is it only us Brits or why in the UK do we feel it necessary to queue for everything?
- Haggling for something, however small is a must ... even if for a $1... got my Tanzania Adidas footy top for $5 not $6! The traders expect it even if you look a little tight.
- Everywhere in Africa seems to have wifi - even the mountain had signal for most days.
- By learning the words Jambo (hello) and Mambo Por (how are you? ok?) in Swahili go a long way to avoiding hassle. Just hope my fluency in Spanish is of equal par in a few months time!